BLACKWATER DRAW, N.M. — It is fitting that Carlos Adley is making his return to college football here, adjacent to an archeological dig.
In a place that prizes fossils, the 24-year-old Adley can be appreciated.
When Adley lines up at nose guard tonight, against Eastern New Mexico at Greyhound Stadium, it will be for the first time since 1987, his third season at Cal State Fullerton.
In the interim, Adley (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) has tried to gain entrance to Cal State Northridge. Although he appeared in the 1989 and '90 media guides and took part in the '89 fall training camp, Adley was denied.
Even this year, a snarl of red tape kept him from playing last Saturday in Northridge's 20-13 opening loss to Eastern Washington.
It wasn't until Thursday night that school admissions officials informed Adley that he had been accepted for a degree program in communications and Chicano studies.
"I was actually elated, to say the least," Adley said. "Not to say that I didn't think it was coming. It was just the reality."
It took Adley three years, at Pasadena City College and Valley College, to bring his grade-point average to the 2.0 required for admission to Northridge.
"After two straight years of Fs, it takes three years to get back," he said of his failing efforts in 1984 and '85 at Fullerton.
"I was 17 years old and wild," said Adley, who rarely attended class. "The first year it was like 30 units of U's (unsatisfactories)."
His situation on the football field was much brighter. As a Titan freshman, he earned the starting nose guard position and was honored as the team's rookie of the year.
Adley was able to improve his grades enough in summer-school classes to retain eligibility for his sophomore year, but after making 39 tackles and three quarterback sacks in nine games he couldn't do it again.
After redshirting in 1986, he played the '87 season at Fullerton, but things had changed. Adley didn't see eye to eye with the Titans' new defensive line coach, so he decided to play his final year elsewhere.
Where was an easy choice. Bob Burt, the former Fullerton defensive coordinator, was the Northridge head coach.
"He's always been like a father figure to me," Adley said of Burt.
"Last year, at the last minute, it didn't pan out," said Adley, who had a 1.99 grade-point average. "But I kept with it in school and I trained five or six days a week. If you know you have the potential to do something you're stupid if you don't. I don't want to be 30 years old and wondering, 'What if?' "
So he tries to consider the positive side.
"I gained physical and mental maturity," Adley said. "Now I'm 24 and I'm at the biggest, strongest and fastest point in my life."
Although he has not made a hit or taken one in a game in almost four years, Adley isn't nervous.
"If you're a defensive player, you are born a defensive player," he said. "That part (hitting) comes natural. It won't feel strange at all. It'll feel euphoric, if anything. It is just a matter of staying in shape. It is only a matter of time for me to get back to showing what I have."
Although Adley is still learning Northridge's defensive plays, it is apparent to defensive coordinator Mark Banker that the game is ingrained in Adley.
"It is like riding a horse," Banker said, "and in this case, it is a horse he likes."
As nose guard, Adley is required to quickly shoot past the center.
"It is a matter of quickness," Banker said. "He has it in his feet and hands and he has the strength in his upper body to maneuver the center. He's such an intense and determined individual."
Burt believes that Eastern New Mexico has improved since last season, but he is more concerned about his team. "We have to be consistent on offense, improved on special teams and take better advantage of turnovers," he said. "We need to get on the winning side of the ledger. Even though it is a road game." . . . Burt was born in New Mexico and spent several summers as a youngster in Albuquerque. Several of his aunts, uncles and cousins live in Albuquerque and will be making the four-hour drive to the game. The Burt family has a rich political tradition in New Mexico. In 1942, Burt's grandparents, Robert and Edna Peterson, ran against each other for state governor. "A third party won," Burt said. "They split the vote."